What Makes a Great Hyper-Local Blog

First and foremost – time and dedication and commitment.

Finnegan at Harrisonburg News puts together the perfect analysis of what he’s learned in the two and a half years since he started writing. Everything he says is on point. It’s a shame that he’s “throwing in the towel” because the comments speak to the value that his site has brought to his community, but it’s good that the site will continue. All of his points ring true, and they speak to what I’m trying to start in Waynesboro and provide guidance and inspiration.

Two ThreeFour points (just read the whole thing) with which I particularly agree, and if I could copy and paste his entire post, I would, because each one is poignant.

– Curiosity is key. Most of what I’ve written here has been driven by curiosity. If an informed and educated public is “necessary to the well being of a free society,” we need curious journalists. When they’ve become jaded, it’s time for them to step down and let someone else take over.

– It’s not difficult to break news. A combination of the right RSS feeds in Google Reader, email, and a few well-informed friends will do it. When I started blogging, I was surprised when I scooped the local media. Now, I’m often surprised if they publish a story first. The days of the 24 hour news cycle are long gone.

– Just because it’s not in the news doesn’t mean it’s not news. There are a lot of important stories that fall through the cracks or are intentionally ignored. If you know where to look and who to ask, you can find them. And sometimes if you write about it on a blog, a reporter might take notice and follow your lead. In other words, news is not the exclusive purview of professional reporters.

– Bloggers need reporters. Reporters need bloggers. Whether we like it or not, we’ve developed a symbiotic relationship. Paid reporters scan the Internet for leads, and sometimes find them on blogs. Bloggers are rarely in the field reporting, so we rely on material we can quote and link to, giving them additional traffic. The majority of what I’ve posted on hburgnews over the years has been excerpts and links to news reports from traditional media sources.

Thanks, hburgnews.com for the roadmap to a successful, critical and vital community blog. Hopefully your knowledge and experience will provide inspiration for others.

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  1. finnegan November 9, 2008 at 11:34

    Thanks for the link, Jim.

    I must give credit where credit is due — Jeff Jarvis preaches what I practice. I essentially adopted his “blogging philosophy” at buzzmachine.com

  2. Jim Duncan November 9, 2008 at 11:40

    finnegan –

    You are quite welcome. I think that we all seek inspiration elsewhere – it’s the implementation that’s challenging and time-consuming. Your post really resonated with me.

  3. TR @ WSB November 15, 2008 at 03:00

    Hi, gentlemen … just followed a trail here. One thing I would like to BEG you … please join the movement to stop using the language that artificially separates “bloggers” and “journalists.” A blog is a publishing format, nothing else. To continue to use separate words to describe people who publish in blog format and people who publish in some other format is confusing at best and misleading at worst (unless you are truly writing about the mechanics of publishing).

    Journalism can be reported and written in blog format; that’s what we do at our successful community news site (which only has “blog” in its title because I didn’t know any better when I started it with the intention of having a chatty little site … which grew into something much more) – but contrary to the statement about “bloggers” seldom going out into the field, we DO go out in the field, ALL THE TIME, and the site is the sole support of my husband and me (30-plus years in “old media” journalism between us). We break stories in our community daily. Sometimes hourly. And of course we are far from alone in running a blog-format community news site.

    If you really aren’t doing any original reporting, the question is – are you a community news site, or are you an aggregator, or maybe a discussion host? It may not matter as long as you are doing something that needs doing. But please, if I may beg you one last time, realize that saying “bloggers need journalists” continues to perpetuate the erroneous perception many people have that there is some sort of difference. And for some of us, trying to cut through the overgrowth of that erroneous perception is like machete’ing through a jungle.

    P.S. Looking at the linked “throwing in the towel” post … fwiw, selling ads does not mean you have to compromise integrity. On the contrary, selling ads enabled us to turn our site into a business so we could spend 24/7 reporting the news, sharing the information, and facilitating discussion, rather than working on it around the edges of other jobs. And we have some “best practices” (such as, EVERY TIME we mention a sponsor, whatever the context, we identify them IN THAT VERY SENTENCE as a sponsor) that have really helped us reiterate and protect that integrity.

    Anyway, keep up the good fight … there’s so much to be reported and shared, most days I wish sleep were optional rather than mandatory.


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